Dave Dronkers a Our Man with the Social Media Plan

Like many industries, the food and beverage business has been inexorably changed by the advent of social media. Today most consumers rely on Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to help them decide where to socialize. Social media is an integral component of everyday reality. While most Americans are adept at using social media, it takes specific knowledge how to use the technology to help grow a bar, restaurant and nightclub. If you’re not up to speed on all that social media can do to increase your clientele and drive revenue, seek the counsel of someone who does—consultant David Dronkers.

Few have amassed a broader, more comprehensive work history than Dronkers. His first job was as a dishwasher and busser at a neighborhood restaurant. Over the next two years, Dronkers learned a deal about himself and what it means to work for a living. After high school, he served four years in the U.S. Air Force, the last few years of which were spent in Hawaii. At night he moonlighted as bouncer in a downtown nightclub. Dronkers found being a bouncer a less than romantic job and decided there and then that behind the bar was the place to be.

“I left the service in 1973 and returned to my home in Fremont, California to begin college,” says Dronkers. “I soon got a bartending gig at a local steakhouse—The Hungry Hunter—and within three months I was made lead bartender. In six months we lowered the bar cost by 3% and increased beverage sales 2%. The large upswing in profit eventually caught the attention of the corporate office and I was promoted to beverage coordinator and moved to the corporate office in San Diego.”

For the following nine years, the position allowed him to hone his managing skills and implement profitable and exciting beverage programs. When the Hungry Hunter chained was bought out, Dronkers became a manager at Carlos Murphy’s where he learned the disciplines of running a high volume restaurant. 

Another aspect of his career began to emerge, namely working with national suppliers. Soon he was offered a position with Hiram Walker as an account manager for the Pacific Northwest. By this time he was married with children and decided he needed to return to college to get his master’s degree in business. It turned out to be a challenging, but fortuitous achievement that landed him the position of western regional manager with Hiram Walker/Allied Domecq.

His corporate career came to an abrupt end in 2001 when the company was bought by Pernod Ricard. He then decided to take matters into his own hands and created Dronkers Beverage Solutions. Its mission continues to be to elevate excellence in people, product and operations. His firm’s services include increasing sales, lowering costs and training management and staff.

In 2008, Dronkers began working with his clients on improving their social media programs. “I attended numerous conferences and took certification classes to learn all about social media marketing. Today 80% of our consulting work deals with social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, Foursquare, Email and Mobile marketing.”

Dronkers typically consults with emerging chains with between 5 and 15 units that don’t necessarily have the corporate resources to manage a beverage or social media program, or who are not in a position to negotiate with suppliers for marketing support. That said, he works a great deal with independent operators on improving the results they are obtaining from social media.

“The key to social media is to engage, entertain and inform your audience so you can achieve maximum interaction with your brand,” contends Dronkers. “We provide creative direction for content and engagement to help you reach your goals. Our team will review an operator’s social media presence, compare it to three of their direct competitors and provide recommendations on how to better increase brand awareness, drive traffic and unique visitors with the ultimate goal of increasing sales.”

According to Dronkers, you can have a great product, but if users of the Internet don’t know about it, then what does it matter? Social media has become that significant of a sales driver. He and his staff gather business intelligence for their clients by tracking the effectiveness of individual campaign elements. They can capture what your customers like, share and re-tweet. Every month, Dronkers and his team provide their clients with an analytical breakdown on how effectively their social media efforts are working.

Most of his clients need to increase their fan base on Facebook. Regardless of the brand or business, he stresses that you must first know who your target audience is, then find ways to engage them. Dronkers believes many marketers spend too much time talking about their brand, which invariably turns-off the fan base. In addition, he thinks all Facebook posts should include images, links or videos, all of which have a greater reach than plain text posts.

In order to increase the fan base on Facebook, he emphasizes your content should address three main areas:

• Empowerment — Dronkers believes your Facebook posts should ignite emotions. “Posting a motivational quote or image or short video to help people get their day started or put life in perspective.”

• Education — Says Dronkers, “Think about posting something that will help fans improve their quality of life. For example, one of our clients posts ‘Hot Tip Monday’ in which they offer their fans a hot tip about cooking.”

• Entertainment — Dronkers recommends you be community minded and know what is on the minds of many of your fans. “When you post something about an event that might be going on in the community, then you become relevant. This could be about culture, sports or anything that is locally significant. Mix it up.”

Dronkers also believes Twitter is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to advance your business or brand. Yet surprisingly it remains an underutilized marketing vehicle.

“While most marketers use Facebook, only a portion uses Twitter. Why? Because many operators don’t take the time to understand the full benefits of Twitter and how it can grow their business. With its open format and huge user base—over one hundred million people—you can use Twitter to communicate with almost anyone. From major brands, regular people, celebrities, subject matter experts and other small businesses, you are able to find almost anybody on Twitter.”

Pinterest is another fast growing web network that now reaches up to 10 million registered users. Dronkers thinks the sheer number of users alone warrants adding Pinterest to your Facebook and Twitter social media networks. 

However, Dronkers advises exercising caution. “Our recommendation is that unless you conduct a social media analysis and understand your target audience, you shouldn’t make any major changes to your strategy. This analytical device should be used to define your online goals, identify your target market as well as the existing resources to apply to social media efforts.”

Dave Dronkers is certainly one of the hardest working guys in the business. He attributes his drive and tenacity to his father, who came to this country from the Dutch West Indies during the Depression. He worked steadily as a cook and baker in restaurants to provide for his family of four boys.

So if you’re an operator and need bigger margins and more push from social media, contact him at www.bevexcel.com. You could say the business is in his blood.

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